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Baccarat Rouge 540 – floral and woody and perfect


Image - - Boutique Baccarat, 11 place de la Madelaine, Paris, by Erwmat, Sept. 5, 2013

The folks at Baccarat sure know how to party with style. When the luxury crystalworks brand had its 250 year anniversary in 2014, they had a yearlong celebration that began with the publication of Baccarat’s history in January, followed by a party in Milan for the glitterati in April and a retrospective exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris. Then, in Tokyo, there was the unveiling of the largest chandelier ever made, designed by Japanese artist Yasumichi Morita. There was the creation of Parure Louxor, a five-edition set consisting of a necklace, drop earrings, and a ring created by jewelry designer Elie Top. The brand also launched Baccarat Rouge 540 EdP by Parisian perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. Only 250 numbered bottles of the juice were produced and presented in a limited edition Baccarat crystal bottle. Yep, they partied like it as 1999.

And none of this stuff was cheap. The jewelry costs € 25,800, the chandelier doesn’t have a price (if you gotta ask, then you can’t afford it…) and the limited edition bottles of Baccarat Rouge 540 sell for £2,510.00 (I quote the UK website because they offer free shipping. I’m here to help.)

Thankfully, in 2016, Kurkdjian was given the right to sell Baccarat Rouge 540 through his brand, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, in an MFK-style bottle.

I say ‘thankfully’ because I think this one of the best fragrances created by M. Kurkdjian. But before we get to that, it helps to know more about the history of Baccarat and the inspiration for Baccarat Rouge 540.

Wikipedia says that “In 1764 King Louis XV of France gave permission to found a glassworks in the town of Baccarat in the Lorraine region in eastern France to Prince Bishop Cardinal Louis-Joseph de Laval-Montmorency (1710-1802). Production consisted of window panes, mirrors and stemware until 1816 when the first crystal oven went into operation. By that time over 3000 workers were employed at the site.”

It received its first royal commission in 1823, which resulted in other commissions for royalty and heads of state around the world. Soon Baccarat earned a reputation for quality and excellence and expanded its crystal production to chandeliers, barware and perfume bottles.

The defeat of Napoléon III in 1867 allowed Baccarat to get established in the Asian market, especially in Japan. Still, one of the strongest areas of growth was in perfume bottles. Production grew from 150 bottles a day in 1897 to 4,000 a day in 1907. Soon they were creating bottles for houses like Caron, Dior, Patou and Elsa Schiaparelli.

In 1993, Baccarat began making jewelry and in 1997 they expanded into perfume.

OK, so that explains the chandelier in Tokyo, the Parure Louxor and the limited edition bottles for the fragrance but what about the inspiration? Well, it’s in the name.

In 1839, Baccarat developed the first colour pieces in various shades of red, blue, yellow, green and black. It was the red colour, produced by heating 24-carat gold powder with clear crystal gradually to a temperature of 540 C that became the iconic Baccarat rouge. Baccarat Rouge 540 is Kurkdjian’s interpretation of the process. In an interview he said, “The perfume suggests the heat of the furnace, the breath of the glass maker and the transparency of crystal through the association of ingredients that, in my mind, represent those ideas.”

Baccarat Rouge 540 opens with a sparkling note of blood orange. The ruby red colour echoes the name, but it smells citrusy-bitter, yet sweet and juicy and with its raspberry facets. Lurking just behind it, I smell the salty-sea sweetness of ambergris and the woodiness of cedarwood. On me, these stay present throughout the development of the fragrance, at times in the background at times called forward by facets of the other ingredients. In time, a note of jasmine, sweet and indolic blooms, its airiness warmed by saffron. The fact that saffron is one the world’s most expensive spices by weight, is a nod to the luxuriousness of the Baccarat brand. A note of aromatic, herbaceous sage appears, its peppery aspect keeps the warmth humming. It’s paired with lavender, its medicinal aspect on show here. Oak moss, turpentine-like, earthy and woody gives Baccarat Rouge 540 a rich, foresty, sensuous depth.

For me, what makes Baccarat Rouge 540 a perfect scent is the way the notes play on the skin, as though through a crystal lens, changing, re-arranging, re-combining different aspects of each note. For this to be successful the ingredients have to always re-combine in a pleasing way.  This is the genius of Francis Kurkdjian: choosing and manipulating ingredients to not just represent the heat of the furnace, the breath of the glass blowers and the transparency of the crystal, but to result in a fragrance that is complex, luminous and a joy to wear.

Daniela Riccardi, Baccarat’s chief executive, said in an interview that “Baccarat is an investment that gives you pleasure forever.” Baccarat Rouge 540 EdP certainly is, I have no doubt about that. I’m just glad I don’t have to invest £2,510.00 in a bottle (even with free shipping….)

Baccarat Rouge 540 is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.